Tag Archives: sick cat

My Cat Has What?

By Betsey Cichoracki

Herpes. Ever since high school health class that word has prompted “ewws” and “gross!” in the minds of many. So when our vet informed me that our cat Coal has herpes, I thought “ewww” before even learning what feline herpes really is. Turns out a herpes virus means many things among many species. Continue reading


Filed under ACDC News, Adopted Animals, Animal Rescue, Animals in our care, Foster Parents, Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats, Uncategorized, Volunteers

How Do I Know My Pet is Sick?

Knowing what to watch for in your pet's behavior can help catch illnesses early.

By Nikki Senecal 

There are many times I wish my dog could talk, but that feeling is compounded by worry when she seems to be feeling ill. (Talking animals would make the vet’s job easier too!) 


If we remember that we’re mammals too, diagnosing our pets can be a little easier. How do you know you’re sick? Vomiting, diarrhea, appetite changes, abnormal bleeding, and lethargy signal something’s wrong in humans. It turns out many of these symptoms signal problems for our pets too.      

Guinea Pig     

  • Bloated abdomen
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss


  • Loud tooth grinding
  • Very hot or very cold ears
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooling or a wet chin
  • Loss of balance or head tilt
  • Abnormal fecal pellets (smaller, irregular shape, droppings laced with fur)
  • Loss of appetite or lethargy


  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Stops using the litter box or strains upon elimination
  • Develops puffiness or a lump under the skin
  • Hides for more than a day
  • Becomes ill-tempered or doesn’t want to be touched
  • Increased head shaking
  • Changes his routine or loses interest in his favorite games
  • Stops grooming
  • The “third eyelid” (nictitating membrance) emerges from the corner of his eye


  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased drinking
  • Vomiting or unproductive retching
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or bloody feces
  • Unexplained, sudden weight loss
  • Seizure
  • Pale gums or tongue
  • Increased panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Straining to urinate, decreased urination, or bloody urination
  • Inflamed ears or skin, or smelly ears
  • Discharge from ears, eyes, or nose
  • Difficulty walking or lameness
  • Head shaking

Take notes on changes in your pet’s habits and health and take him/her to the vet at the first sign of concern. Your vet will want to know details of your pet’s symptoms, including when they began. Until animals learn to talk, your pet needs you to speak for her.

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The Stinky Cat: Matchmaking 101–How To Get Fluffy Attracted To The Litterbox, Problems In Da “Hood,” and Some “Simple” Solutions

Solving Your Most Challenging Litterbox Issues: The Tidy Cat Whisperer is at it again!

By Kim Butler

Yes, the Tidy Cat Whisperer has returned, with the complete “scoop” on litterbox issues. In the first article we looked at some of the various “psychological” reasons a cat might not use the litterbox, i.e. new baby, new furniture, adding another pet. 

There are some other reasons that are a bit more concrete and easier to grasp: 

  • A perfect reason to avoid the litterbox is when it’s not scooped and cleaned regularly. Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: would you use a toilet that hadn’t been flushed for a day or two? Ummm, probably not.
  • Daily scooping is required, as well as a wipe-down of the edges and sides, especially where there may have been urine. Do not use cleaners with an ammonia base, i.e. window cleaner; that will just intensify the urine smell to your cat.
  • Use cleaners like Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle as they contain enzymes which will help break down the urine odor.


The Look of the Litterbox
Nowadays there are as many choices in litterbox styles, sizes, and shapes as Michelle Obama has in sleeveless dresses. There are litterboxes that look like litterboxes…and then there are litterboxes disguised to look like something else entirely. A litterbox that looks like a spaceship? What I want to know is: how easy is it to clean, and will it beam Fluffy into the carrier for that trip to the vet?   

Keep in mind: most of these “cutesy” litterboxes have one thing in common—they have a hood or lid. Yet again, someone forgot to consult the cat.  Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: just how much do you enjoy using a PortaPotty that’s been used 50,000 at that outdoor rock concert you’re attending? Especially one that hasn’t been washed down in a month? That, my friends, is what it’s like for your cat when they are sitting inside a hooded litterbox. The hood traps the odor of urine (“hmmmm, yeah I really wanna be inside this thing, maybe I’ll go pee on the couch.”) Hooded litterboxes were invented by people for the convenience of…. People (the cat is not at all surprised by this news). Hooded boxes are designed to reduce the amount of litter flying out of the box onto the floor but I believe there is another reason people like them: out of sight, out of mind. Put a lid on it and all of a sudden we can’t actually see what Fluffy has done in there. See, we people think that if we can’t SEE the clumps in the litter, oh then maybe it’s really not there—and maybe we won’t have to clean it as much. But—if your family members insist on a hooded box, remember to always wipe down the inside of the hood as well as the edges and inside of the box after scooping so you can eliminate the leftover urine smell. Fluffy will thank you by not urinating elsewhere. 

Fixing the Furniture
If Fluffy has decided that your furniture looks like a good substitute for a bidet, you can possibly salvage your furniture if it has not had a ton of damage. For spot soiling, Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solutions make cleaning products that will help get the odor and stain out. Oreck (yes the vacuum cleaner people) also makes a very good spot cleaner for pet stains. In most cases however, you are better off having the furniture professionally cleaned, especially if there are several areas to be cleaned. Most all of the major rug and furniture cleaning companies have special solutions that tackle pet stains & odors. 

Falling in Love with the Litterbox—Again
Now, onto the BIG issue: how to make Fluffy fall in love with the litterbox again. We can do the soft, easy way, or we can go “hard core.” First, let’s look at the easy way out:   

We need to somehow make Fluffy feel better about her environment so that she will feel more at ease and naturally gravitate towards using the litterbox—all without the use of Valium (sigh). This presumes that whatever it is that Fluffy is stressed about has been resolved: renovations, change of litter, new members of the household. (And no, I am not suggesting that you give the baby away….by now your cat is probably used to the idea of the baby being in the house). 

There are two products which I suggest we invest in: Comfort Zone with Feliway and the Sergeant’s Sentry “Good Behavior” collar. Comfort Zone is a plug-in, similar to the air freshener plugins like Glade, only there is no smell or detectable odor to this special plug-in. The Comfort Zone plug-in uses Feliway, which is a synthetic copy of the feline pheromone used by cats to mark their “territory” as safe and secure. Neither you or I can detect Feliway—but your cat can, and it gives them a very calming sense of security and helps reduce their level of stress when faced with a challenging issue. It’s sort of like “kitty Prozac” without the after-effects. Usually I suggest having one or more of these plug-ins, especially in areas where your cat frequents the most. 

The Sergeant’s “Good Behavior” collar is very similar to Feliway in that it has a very calming effect on the cat due to the pheromones contained in the collar. The difference is that the cat is wearing the collar 24/7 so the effects stay with the cat as long as they wear the collar. The combination of both Comfort Zone/Feliway and the collar may be just enough to get Fluffy back into good litterbox habits….. 

…but if we still aren’t quite there, then we have to go “hard core:” 30 Days In The Crate

It’s not as bad as it sounds, truly. Fluffy will be given her own separate room, and she will be crated in a standard cat/dog crate with her litterbox, food, water, and whatever toys and bedding she might need. Her litterbox will be filled with a special litter called “Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract.” She will not stay in the crate 24/7, you can let her out for supervised exercise, love, and attention, and of course when you clean her litterbox. The point here is that by being confined, she will have no choice but to use the litterbox—and the special litter that was designed by people…for cats. Cat Attract is a clumping litter like regular litter, but blended with a natural herb attractant. The scent, texture, and particle size seem to be just what many cats are looking for and they happily start using their litterboxes and stay that way. 

Along with the crating, I also recommend use of the Comfort Zone/Feliway plug-ins, placing one nearby the crate, as well as wearing the Good Behavior collar. It is very important that this plan be followed for 30 days. Once we have passed the 30 day mark, we can then start giving Fluffy more time out of the crate-supervised time as we want to be certain that she is using the litterbox only and not looking for other places to do “her business.” With patience and perseverance, you will usually wind up with a new cat in 30 days—a happy cat who will be more than happy to use her litterbox regularly—provided you live up to your end of the bargain and keep it clean, scooped daily, and leave the hood off!

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The Stinky Cat: Cats and Their Love/Hate Relationship With Their Litterboxes


Kim has become known as the "Tidy Cat Whisperer" for her unique gift of being able to help pet parents solve litterbox issues!

By Kim Butler

I know I really have no life now when I have decided to devote precious spare time to writing about litterboxes—or, rather, cats and their use and non-use of them.

The Tidy Cat Whisperer
Both in my little world of animal rescue and among friends, somehow I have acquired the not so glamorous reputation as the one who can solve litterbox issues. Call me the “Tidy Cat Whisperer.” It stems from having had several foster cats who arrived on my doorstep with some stinky baggage, specifically non-use of their bidets, and somehow I was able to get them “back in the box” and on their merry way. (Of course I had a few of my own cats who had the same issue, but why would I bother solving their problems when they have so graciously accommodated me and my own pile of crap, none of which I have bothered to fix?)

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. I get tons of e-mails about this very issue—from the general public, past adopters, friends—even the mailman. Just the other day, I was dismayed to learn that I would be needing a new heater. Quite a pricey expense. Needless to say, there will be NO Fancy Feast in this house for quite some time. So the heater guy and I get into a cat discussion, turns out his wife does TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release), and then he starts telling me about one of his cats who is a pee-er…and naturally I gave him some advice. (Hmmm, maybe I’ll get a discount on the heater?)

I am no expert by any means, and I always will refer people to specific products or professionals who may be better able to meet their needs if I think it’s warranted. I merely make suggestions that many times the average cat owner just may not have thought of themselves. By “average cat owner,” I am referring to a person who may have no more than four-five cats.  When you’re the Tidy Cat Whisperer like me, having 15-20 is a walk in the park….

Get Your Cat Examined
The first thing I always recommend is an exam by a licensed veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. In some cases the cat can have a serious medical problem which, once treated, will result in a happy, healthy cat who is back to using their box without further incident. A bladder infection, urinary tract infection or a kidney issue all are prime suspects and reasons why a cat might not be using the litterbox.

Barring a health problem, in most cases a cat does not use the litterbox for behavioral reasons, which is exactly the point where I find many pet parents—not veterinarians—to be the experts. The one “solution” that veterinarians often seem to prescribe is medication, specifically anti-depressants or behavioral modification drugs like Valium, Xanax and the like. Now there is a good and a bad side to this. The good side is that when I’ve had a bad day, I can simply pop one of Fluffy’s Xanax in my mouth and instantly go on a pleasant mind trip. The bad side? Fluffy turns into a zombie, who will be too spaced out to climb into your lap for those wonderful moments of interaction you love so much—and who may still continue not to use the litterbox. Drugs will do nothing to solve the problem (do I sound like Nancy Reagan here?). We need to dig deeper to get to the root of the problem. This is where the Tidy Cat Whisperer comes in…

The Problem With Change
Nothing rocks a cat’s world like change. Most people, even though we hate change, grudgingly come to accept it and we just move on. I was fascinated by cell phones, or “mobile phones” as they were known in the day when they first came out. They were HUGE—and they were only installed in your car, with an antenna as big as the NBC transmission tower. And then, just when I managed to scrape the $1,000 together to get one of those monstrosities, the cellular industry started making portable ones that you could carry with you…in a bag the size of your suitcase. Gradually they got smaller—oh wow this one will fit in my pocketbook!…and smaller-now I can wear it on my belt!…and now they are so miniscule they had to do away with the keypad because the little gnomes who make them couldn’t make them that small. So now they’re all touch screen….which is a change I hate because I can’t get any of the numbers right. When I want to order pizza, I am constantly dialing China. I am now on a first name basis with the main operator at the Peking Ballet. Forget text messaging, I have created my own language which would throw the Linguistics Department at NYU for a loop. But eventually I will get used to it, and move on.

Cats, however, just DESPISE change in their worlds. A change as simple as moving the furniture around can throw a cat into a panic. (“What? The sofa is now by the WINDOW? Oh my god how will I survive this? Where’s the Xanax?”) In most cases, moving the furniture is not enough to distract a cat away from its litterbox routine. There are some changes which can get a cat totally unglued—and many people have no idea they’re creating a feline meltdown by:

  • Doing renovations to their house—without consulting the cat
  • Having a baby (without first consulting the cat, of course)
  • Deciding their cat needed a playmate and thus bringing home a kitten (again, without consulting the cat or without making proper introductions)
  • Deciding that a dog would be a great addition—especially one that likes to chase the cat…

 There are more items which a cat can have major objections to, but these are the most common ones I hear about. Once I mention some of these, nine times out of ten the response I get will be “Oh, you know, Fluffy started her litterbox thing not long after we ripped out the kitchen and remodeled”…and then I know what’s upset her.

The next blog post will be how we get Fluffy back to using the litterbox—and some ways to make sure that Fluffy continues to have a happy relationship with her litterbox forever and ever.

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